HANNAH PARKER and LAURA DOAK History: The Journal of the Historical Association is currently looking for a new ECR Editorial Intern to maintain this site and develop the journal’s online presence. Here, Hannah Parker (intern for 2019-2020) and Laura Doak (current intern) discuss their time with History. If you are an early career historian and […]The ECR Editorial Internship — History Journal
Month: June 2021
A fantastic day in a lovely school
My job is history and this involves reading, writing and teaching. Yesterday I had a brilliant day in a school in Birmingham. James Brindley school is a trust that provides education to none mainstream children. These are children who suffer from crippling anxiety, issues around food or are in prison. As I have said in my introduction this is an issue that is very close to my heart and as a dyslexic I can emphasise with all those children who struggle to read or are anxious about their spelling.
I taught two very interesting groups of children. The first group did not say a word for the first hour. I rolled through the material giving plenty of opportunity for them to interact and suddenly after an hour BANG! they opened up. They had an hour to work out that I wasn’t horrible and was doing something interesting and then it was like working with university students.
The second group did not need any warming up. They were hot from the start and very excited about everything and very keen to give their opinions. Again very exciting with lots of questions including “Why are you dressed like that?” Well its because I am teaching Stone Age today.
A lovely school that I would love to go back to in the future.
Home to the most easterly point in England, Lowestoft Ness, the county of Suffolk is the first place in the country to see the sun rise each morning.10 Spectacular Sites to Visit in Suffolk — The Historic England Blog
A very special birthday
Today marks the birthday of one of the most influential men in history, influential beyond all expectations and potential. This man was the second son in a precarious dynasty that came to power after a long and wasteful period of dynastic struggle. In this turmoil the royal families had been largely destroyed allowing this man’s father, whose family was far from legitimate, to seize the crown from under a hawthorn bush at Bosworth. The throne was precarious, the country exhausted and certainly not a first rate power. I am of course talking about Henry VIII.
The second son of Henry VII was not expected to ascend to the throne and his upbringing was second rate to that of his brother, Arthur, who was groomed to be the perfect Medieval monarch. Brought up in the household Henry was not a perfect Medieval king and this was probably for the good because during his reign Europe moved from the late Middle Ages towards the early modern period. He was clever, romantic and believed in dangerous notions such as “love” and actually believed in his religion. It was the idea that he should love his wife that led to his many divorces and his actual and real belief in Christianity that compelled him to want a proper divorce rather than, as the Pope suggested, he put Catherine away quietly. To a greater or lesser extent he successfully navigated the turmoil’s of the age which included war, religious revolution and the brand new concept of inflation! During his reign the seeds sown in his fathers reign of the decline of feudal system, the growth of the power of merchants and professionals and the decline and dissolution of the monasteries came to pass.
Monastic lands enabled the creation of a new class of landowners, a vast influx of money to the crown and the sudden loss to society of the safety net of monastic charity. The crown responded to this crisis with new thinking. Thomas Cromwell brought the philosophy of the Commonwealth men to the nations problems and supplanted the monasteries with the Crown. Many of the modern public schools and remaining Grammar schools own their existence to the Merry Monarch. Cromwell established hospitals, schools and other benefits long before the idea of the welfare state became the core of Labours 1940s revolution. Cromwell transformed the finances of the crown to such an extent that he believed that the Crown would not need to tax the nation for three hundred years. The most shocking fact I know about Henry VIII is that he spent this money in ten years. Henry VIII transformed England from a medieval backwater into a pre-modern state. Processes set in action in this strange and passionate mans life led to the Church of England that has spread across the globe, Parliamentary democracy, the idea that the King should rule in Parliament and after a successor failed to learn this lesson and lost his life defending the Devine Right of Kings we have the modern state. Without Henry we would not have had the American Revolution we would have had a very different world but the world that Henry set in motion started all those years ago with the birth of a second son to a unsecure monarch in a second rate nation just off the coast of Europe.
Right so I am a professional Historian. I lecture, I write and I research but the one thing that I have never done that I’ve always wanted to do is to find a flint tool from the Stone Age. One of the topics I teach workshops on in schools is Stone Age and I have a lovely collection of tools that have been donated and bought but they were not quite the same. What is worse is that children ask me where they can find flint tools and I tell them that they can find them field walking, that there are plenty of archaeological societies they can join that will help them.
This year I decided to get serious about finding my own flint tools so I got some books, joined some Facebook groups and spoke to some experts. I decided that my best luck would be in Cornwall. First I knew some farmers so getting permission to walk their fields would not be a problem and second Cornwall does not have natural flint deposits so any flint that you find there has been bought in. Third, I had stalked… not stalked a Facebook friend who lived near my parents who had found some amazing flints and no I wasn’t green with envy.
Off I went, finishing work on the Friday and driving six hours to South West Cornwall. The next day I was walking up and down fields staring at the ground. By lunch time I was in despair. I was pretty sure I was the only person in the world who would never find a flint tool despite doing hours of research. Despite going to a flint rich environment where Stone Age people not only lived but put up monuments they could not be bothered to leave flint tools for me. Professional failure stared me in the face, I would have to retrain as an accountant.
Then there it was. A piece of flint. Not a sliver or a tool but a lump and because it was flint I picked it up and knew instantly what it was. I have another example in my collection. It was a core. Cores are the flint that is left after you make a blade. I rubbed the dirt off the sides and saw the distinctive shape of the microliths that had been knapped off it sometime in the Mesolithic Stone Age. Sometime between 15,000 years ago and 5,000 years ago somebody had used this to create microliths. Rather than carry around a whole knife kit they had one core that they knapped when they needed a knife and threw it away when they had used it. I am a very romantic person and I felt that vertigo of time and a connection to someone who was very possibly one of my ancestors. That day I found two mircoliths and another core. I was excited to say the least and my imposter anxiety was buried in a nice deep grave.
The next day I went out again and was walking in a field just behind St Leven church. As a shuffled along in my vivo barefoot I heard a voice say, “Hello!” I turned and returned the greeting which was followed by the question, “Can I ask… what are you doing?” It was a walker and his wife. She was curious but he had clearly come to the conclusion I was a nutter. I pulled myself together, I was walking in a field staring at the ground in the hot sun wearing smart clothes and expensive boots. “Ah! yes Im a historian and I’m looking for flint…”
Now that we know at first hand what a pandemic is, this might be a sensible time to learn more about the 1918 flu–that thing most of us know as the Spanish flu. Spain’s connection was minimal. The disease first got public recognition there and that’s about it. World War I was still being fought, […]A short history of the 1918 flu pandemic — Notes from the U.K.